While it is not surprising that living during COVID-19 has affected the way we live, think, and interact, the CDC reported that in June of 2020, 31% of adults living in the U.S had indicated that they were struggling with the symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, while 26% reported struggling with stress-related disorder symptoms or trauma. As we move into the new year, we are seeing the roll-out of vaccines, but many experts are saying that it could be as far off as Fall, if not even further out before life starts “returning to normal”. While hope is in sight, the prolonged effects of social distancing, stress, and daily coping with the pandemic can take its toll- not to mention on those who have dealt with the illness first-hand or have even lost friends or loved-ones to COVID-19.
If you or someone you care about are experiencing any of symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, or trauma, there are several steps you can take to evaluate the situation more and help determine if seeking professional help may be needed.
• A positive first step can be to decide when enough is enough when it comes to letting broadcast news and social media reporting and posting become more than simply keeping you informed of the situation. COVID-19 continues to be a dominating topic across these platforms, but by deciding to limit your time and exposure can improve your mental health and stress levels.
• Self-evaluate for changes in your behavior or mood that may be affecting your personal relationships, concentration, and quality of work. If you just “aren’t yourself” for prolonged periods, have inconsistent sleep patterns, trouble falling asleep or waking up, appetite changes or diminished energy, you may benefit from a professional evaluation. If you notice any of these in loved ones as well, this could be an indication that they are struggling. If you are the parent of teen children, be sure to check in with them to see how they are doing. Being empathetic, listening, and not trying to immediately problem-solve, just be with them can help them feel supported through the pandemic. The teenage years are challenging enough, but during COVID-19, teens can be affected particularly hard.
• Pay attention to self-medicating. Alcohol and drug consumption are often being used throughout the pandemic to self-medicate for depression and/or stress, people are drinking out of boredom and self-isolation. There can be both mental and physical negative impacts from this behavior, as well as negative effects on your family and relationships. If you notice a loved one struggling, or acknowledge that you may have a problem with substance abuse, it’s important to seek out professional help for treatment.
• Be sure that you take some alone time to work towards a positive, satisfying goal– perhaps an online class and/or fitness routine. It’s important to take some level of control over what we can during COVID-19, and working towards goals can help ward off anxiety and depression.
• Practice mindfulness daily. Work in a daily routine of meditation, yoga, or even just deep breathing to reduce stress and achieve inner calm and balance.
• Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. If you find that in spite of your own efforts that professional help may be needed for yourself or a loved one, take that next step and reach out. Professional help or intervention could be an essential course of action to reclaim well-being. Of course, if there is an emergency, seek immediate assistance from emergency services.